Tour de France preview: Stage 17

Well, we know what happened after the first rest day, so let’s see what the second rest day does to the field, shall we? The first of four high Alpine stages with a nod to one of the most famous stages in the Tour from 1975.

Wednesday 22nd July: Stage 17 – Digne-les-Bains to Pra Loup, high mountains, 161km

Stage 17 profile: Tour de France 2015

Celebrating the battle between Eddy Merckx and Bernard Thevenet on the switchbacks of Pra-Loup that saw Thevenet take the yellow and the title from Merckx in 1975, this stage should be a cracker. Starting with two cat 3 climbs, then the cat 2 Col de la Colle-Saint-Michel. None of these should give the peloton a problem, although if they’re ridden at a very high tempo (and there’s nothing to make us think they won’t be), that’s just more fatigue in the legs. But the final pair of climbs should make things kick off.

final climbs stage 17

The cat 1 Col d’Allos has only been ridden once on the Tour since 1975, in 2000, so well before the current crop of GC contenders were on their bikes. It’s a long 14km ascent and looks a bit like a grind but it peaks at an altitude of 2,250 metres so there’s a lot of ground to cover. This could very well be the climb that Quintana uses to start his Alpine campaign for yellow. But it’s the long 15km descent that could really make this stage. It’s narrow, technical and fast, which also means dangerous. Once the descent has been conquered, it’s 6km on an average 6.5% gradient to the summit finish on Pra Loup.

The GC contenders might hold back in anticipation for the next three days but they really don’t have that kind of time so expect this stage to be ridden full gas.

Link: Official race website

Header image: Col d’Allos (via Wikipedia) 

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